Vike Swimmers Stay Undefeated
The Union Pines boys’ and girls’ swim teams each remained undefeated on the season Tuesday with sizable league meet wins at Campbell University in Buies Creek.
With the victories, both teams improved to 5-0 on the season in 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference competition. Only one regular-season meet now remains before the CFVC championship meet that is scheduled for Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. back at Campbell’s Nathan Johnson Natatorium.
“This week for both teams we scaled back on the number of events each individual swam where applicable to conserve energy in the places we knew we needed it and it seems to have paid off,” said Vike head coach Beth Christensen. “Our girls’ team has been consistent this year and is strong in each of the strokes.
“The boys have had to fight for some of the meet wins, sometimes winning by only a few points — the equivalent of one finish in one event. At any point in time, that can change with a misstep. I was proud of the guys for coming back this week to win by the margin they can win by.”
The Lady Vikings took first place at the meet with a winning tally of 109 points. Western Harnett placed second with 65 points, and Southern Lee scored 58 to finish third. In the boys’ competition the Vikes won with a total of 93 to post a comfortable margin over Western Harnett’s runner-up tally of 68. Gray’s Creek and Southern Lee each finished with 62 points to tie for third place.
Leading the way for the Lady Vikings this season has been the formidable foursome of Cassidy Fry, Erin Harding, Lily Majuri and Ashlyn Owens.
“These four girls are particularly great performers for us each week,” said Christensen. “They can swim one heck of a relay together, and each pulls their own individual events pretty consistently. When you put in the work, you get the results. These girls get that concept and willingly accept the challenge week after week this season”
Fry, a junior and two-time CFVC champion in the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly, won each of those events at Tuesday’s meet. She was also a member of the Vikes’ winning 200-yard medley and the 400-yard freestyle relay teams.
“Cassidy is a natural,” said Christensen. “She was made to swim. Watching her compete makes the average person think this is so easy — she is effortless. Her beautiful strokes do take effort and diligence; she puts the hours in the pool to yield the results we get to see.
“Cassidy also has a demeanor that is contagious. She’s competitive, clearly likes to win, and really seems to appreciate the team camaraderie. She does not portray herself as any better than anyone else. She just swims. She has the total package, and we are incredibly happy she’s a Viking.”
Harding and Owens are also juniors for Union Pines. Along with being part of the Vikes’ winning 200 medley and 400 free relay teams, Harding took home third in the 200-yard individual medley and anchored Union Pines winning 200 free relay team.
“Erin, being double-jointed, enjoys butterfly,” said Christensen. “As a former butterflier, I know this is a stroke you either love to hate or hate to love. She is just that. Erin has a great rhythm with swimming, a product of her years in the sport even before her time as a Viking.
“Her workouts do not end with practice. She is in the pool more days than she is out of it. As one of the girls’ co-captains, she also takes to heart helping other teammates find their own individual success in the pool.”
Owens took ill during the meet and left the event early to get home for comfort and rest. Still, as her coach attests, she has been a big part of the girls’ success this season.
“Ashlyn Owens is a great freestyler,” said Christensen. “The good news is she knows this is her stroke and works well with her talents. Ashlyn is strong and competitive in one of the sweetest ways I’ve ever seen. Her positive and optimistic outlook has gotten her through tough practices and drills, and definitely helps her approach her competition. Ashlyn enters the pool to do her thing — she’s focused, and she’s having fun. This combination works really well for her.”
Meanwhile, as a freshman, Majuri is a swimmer who has made quite a splash for the Vikes this season. In Tuesday’s meet she placed second in the 100 free, won the 100-yard breaststroke and was a member of the Vikes’ first-place relay teams in the 200 medley and the 400 free.
“As a freshman on the team this year, Lily Majuri came to UP with her own competitive swimming experiences,” said Christensen. “Lily’s 100 freestyle and breaststroke events are certainly hers to own — she made that clear in the first few meets.
“Despite her age, she understands competition, the team aspect and the individual, and gives her best efforts in every practice and race. I look forward to Lily developing as a swimmer in the next few years. She’s already off to a great start.”
Other first-place finishers for the Lady Vikings on the night were Kelly Hanhauser — with a win in the 200 free and as a part of the 200 free relay team — and Jessica Ledford as part of the 200 and 400 free relay teams.
In the boys’ meet, Union Pines got especially strong performances from John Moulton, Patrick O’Sullivan, Kyle Metcalf and Cody Roberts.
“These boys are definitely a group to contend with,” said Christensen. “Three of the four are new to UP swimming — John and Patrick are new to the area this year, and Cody has participated in other Viking sports, but never swimming.
“While each of them specializes in specific events or strokes, most of them are also incredibly versatile, which has been a huge help in some of our competitions. Much like the dynamic group of women mentioned, these guys are proof that you can swim well and have fun at the same time.”
Moulton is a junior for Union Pines and had a particularly strong showing Tuesday. On the night he won the 200 free, placed second in the 500 free and was a member of the Vikes’ winning 400 free relay team. Also a Vike junior, O’Sullivan came up huge as well with a win in the 100 breast and as part of the Union Pines first-place 200 medley and 400 free relay teams.
“John has found himself in our men’s distance swim,” said Christensen. “In previous years, this event was a no-show for UP but John was willing to step up in both the 200 and the 500 freestyle events and has found a place for himself that both he and I are comfortable with.
“Patrick, also joining this year, is a phenomenal breaststroker for us. He also has a natural ease in the water that is beautiful to watch, as if he’s hardly breaking a sweat doing what he does and doing it so well.”
Meanwhile in his second year swimming for Union Pines, Metcalf, a sophomore, made a solid showing at the league meet. On the evening he finished with two first-place wins as a member of the Vikes’ 200 medley and 400 free relays. He also placed second in the 100 fly and fourth in the 100 free.
“Kyle is a great swimmer for us as a sophomore,” said Christensen. “Another butterflier, he has such a great approach to swimming and life in general. He’s determined, no doubt about it. He has every intention of making each competition count.”
As a senior Roberts has had solid results in his first year swimming for the Vikings. Such was the case again Tuesday. In the meet Roberts placed third in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races and was part of Union Pines’ winning 200 medley relay team.
“Cody came to the team this year already strong,” Christensen said, “and a workout was not a foreign concept to him, but he quickly found out that a gym workout and a swim workout were not created equally. Over the course of the season, I’m proud that he decided to stick with it and even found his strength in sprinting.”
While Union Pines has dominated the regular CFVC season thus far, Christensen and her Vikings swim squads are not about to rest on their laurels now.
“Overall, the team has done really well,” said Christensen. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to swim at FirstHealth without an on-campus facility. Times are improving. We have a number of swimmers with ‘consideration times’ for regionals in February and a few ‘automatic qualifications’ to be excited about.
“While we began the season as 30 random swimmers and a coach that started a week before the season, the swimmers have found their commonalities, shared funny stories and memories that will last far longer than any records they may attempt to break.”
Contact F.W. Manning II at frankwm2@ gmail.com.
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